The Typer and the Pomera: new 21st-century typewriters?

by | May 23, 2018 | Uncategorized | 10 comments

The Typewriter Revolution includes chapters on intersections between typewriters and the digital world, and on the future of typewriting. In this context I discuss things such as typewriter-simulation apps, the Alphasmart, and the Hemingwrite (now rechristened the Freewrite).

In my view, a gadget like the Freewrite should be considered a word processor, not a typewriter, since it doesn’t put ink on paper. But maybe that is a picky technicality. After all, typewriters can put ink on things other than paper (cloth, tin foil, leaves…) and they can type without ink (to make a stencil, for instance). In any case, the existence of the Freewrite shows that there is some demand for a more focused, simpler writing technology than what our usual digital devices offer us.

A couple of recent news stories about such inventions caught my eye. First, there is the Pomera, an “E ink typewriter” with a folding keyboard, invented in Japan, where it has supposedly been popular for a decade. The manufacturer has started a Kickstarter campaign to introduce it in the US.

With the first model having been released in Japan in 2008, pomera will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2018. In 2008, people who were using laptops on the go or on business trips were unhappy about the heavy weight, large size, slow startup and short battery life. They would carry heavy laptops just to take notes. During meetings, they would surf websites, becoming distracted from work. We wanted an easy-to-use tool just for entering text, which led us to develop pomera. Now it is used [for] taking notes as well as for writing, such as novels. We have launched pomera on Kickstarter, because we want this unique tool to be used by people in the U.S. and Japan.”

The other device that drew my attention is the Typer, which I think exists purely as a design concept so far. It was created by industrial designer Yannik Goetz. What makes it different from the Freewrite or the Pomera is that it actually prints immediately onto a roll of paper. (These images come from Goetz’s Instagram account and from a story here.)

The Typer’s keyboard is truly minimal, and would probably be uncomfortable at first because the keys are in a grid, rather than staggered, like most typewriter and computer keyboards. The dot-matrix printing technology is what you’d find on a simple printing calculator or cash register. What is the potential market for this gadget? Probably zero.

But is it a typewriter? I vote yes. In the ’80s and ’90s, dot-matrix technology was used on some portable machines that were marketed as typewriters and that no one, to my knowledge, insisted on calling anything else. Here’s an example (not my video):

What do you think?


  1. Unknown

    Well you know i love typewriters, but… I'm also a gadget girl and own a Freewrite,(they should have kept the Hemmingwrite name) an Alphasmart Neo2, and a 10" table which I sometimes connect to a wireless mechanical keyboard, so I'm totally interested in the Pomera for its portability. That said, I'm not sure I like its keyboard. As for The Typer…. I think I'll pass. That one just holds no fascination for me at all. I'd feel way too cramped and wouldn't be able too think.

  2. Unknown

    One thing I am not fond of, is my smartphone's inability to correct correctly, hence the typos above.

  3. Joe V

    There’s little doubt that a need still exists for typewriter-like devices. If the typewriter revival (and your book) have done anything, it’s to make knowledge of that need more conscious in the culture. I hope we continue to see these kinds of tools made available. But for that to happen we have to support them, imperfect as they might yet be.

  4. Bill M

    Neat gadgets. I think the Hemingwriter or an old Alpha smart would be good tools if one typed in meetings and lectures. I prefer hand written notes in those situations, For other writing I prefer a good manual typewriter. No batteries, very little maintenance, and unlike modern electronics devices will still work in the 22nd century as long as someone can fashion a ribbon.

  5. Richard P

    I've used an Alphasmart in some meeting situations, when handwriting might be too slow or when I want to be able to share my text with others. It's pretty handy.

  6. Unknown

    Hey Richard,

    thanks for sharing my work and your thoughts on the typer. If you all don't mind, I would like to share some background information on the project.

    As you say, Typer is solely a design concept. I did the project in my second undergraduate semester as product design student. This alone might serve as an explanation for some of the obvious drawbacks of the concept. In fact, the project is almost two years old now, and one of the reasons I hesitated with publishing it, was its questionable practicability.
    From a Product Design perspective, the concept would be altered a lot if it would have been continued. Obvious flaws like the grid-structure of the keyboard would be adjusted after a quick evaluation, for example. Things that are obvious for long-time users were outright new to me.
    I always saw typer as a piece of critical design rather than an actual production ready product. And it is – apparently it does its job of evoking controversy (not so much here, really, but on other platforms). If there is any questions or comments, please let me know :)

    All the best!
    Jannik Götz

  7. Ted

    Oh, I do recall a conversation we had where we suggested that a Typewriter was a machine with a full-character keyboard and output to paper integrated as a complete unit. By that yardstick, neither of these new items qualifies. :D

  8. Richard P

    Thank you for commenting, Jannik! I think the Typer concept is thought-provoking and visually interesting. I wish you all the best in your creative work.

  9. Richard P

    But surely an all-caps kids' machine with no numerals like the Rem-Rand Bantam is still a typewriter, even if it doesn't have a full-character keyboard. And the Typer's keyboard is integrated with its printer, even if the connection is wireless.


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